Re: Need Western PA recommendations
A great, simple question, that’s sure to spark a debate. Everybody has their favorites, and some flies might be more effective in different conditions (different water types, time of year, different hatches, and on specific rivers/lakes,)
So I’d do 2 things.
1. Pick up a selection of some basics that have been proven over the years for trout fishing- pretty much everywhere., including PA.
2. Top off with a visit to a local fly shop and get a few specific flies they recommend for the water you plan to fish that day (and hopefully some tips). For these, get flies from the shop that are tied locally (as opposed to Thailand or Kenya) for the local favorites since there are often local twists that might be more effective.
There are many, many choices for the basics. (There’s a deal from Orvis on 20 flies for 9.95 that would be a good selection to start.) But here’s a dozen different patterns/sizes that imitate different things, cover different layers of the water column, and cover different water types. Some tend to be better in slow water, some in fast, and some work well in both. These are all classics and have caught trout all over the world, including PA, but there are many other choices that could be substituted just as easily. They’ll also give you a chance to practice different presentaions by fishing dries, wets, nymphs and streamers.
Some dry flies (add some paste type fly floatant like DAB for around 3 bucks)
Adams Parachute size 16 – a good all around mayfly imitation,
Tan Elk Hair Caddis size 14 a good all around caddis imitation on slow and fast water. As Eaglesfan said, caddis are big on some of the faster streams and rivers like the Yough.
Ausable Wulff (or Royal Wulff) size 14- this is a good fly for fast water- easy to see and floats well for places like the Yough. Panfish aren’t very picky so this would be a good fly for them too, on ponds, lakes, and streams.
Griffiths Gnat- size 20 This will pass for small ant or beetle, and will give you something to throw when fish are taking really small stuff off the surface, but the fishing is usually pretty tough when that happens.
Bead head Woolly Buggers size 8 in Black and size 12 in Olive. These are especially good on lakes and deeper sections of streams and rivers. Olive version imitates a dragonfly larvae found in lakes. The two different sizes should give you a shot at both bass (8) and panfish(10) as well as trout (both sizes),
Muddler Minnow size 10 If you get an unweighted one you can fish it on top as a grasshopper, and deep with a split shot in front as a sculpin minnow.
Some wet flies (swinging these in current is a good way to search for fish)
Partridge and Orange Softhackle size 16 (a generic imitation of emerging mayflies and caddis, drowned adults and caddis that dive to the bottom to lay eggs for still or moving water, and panfish eat them too.
Bright Green Emergent Sparkle Pupa size 14 (often very effective on caddis rivers just below riffles)
Some nymphs (add an assortment of “micro” split shot to get down a bit if you need to, and an indicator of some sort to detect strikes. A small “o-ring” type with poly yarn might be the easiest to start off with)
Bead Head Pheasant tail size 16 imitates a lot of small mayfly nymphs, good for any type of water
Bead Head Prince size 12 especially good in rivers with lots of caddis and small stoneflies, and to imitate big mayfly nymphs like Isonychia (Mahogany Dun).
Bead Head Gold Ribbed Hares Ear size 14 another any water anytime pattern, imitates a lot of the larger fatter mayfly nymphs.
When you pop into fly shops, ask for recommended patterns and sizes, and the most effective ways and times of day to fish them. One of the things you might want to ask about is the “white fly” hatch. This can be a big deal hatch in PA and many other areas. It usually happens late in the day around dusk into dark on still or slow water with muddy bottoms starting in late July and through August. Trout, smallmouth and every other fish in the same zip code often go nuts and it would be a good one to explore in advance to see if shops will recommend certain bodies of water where they’ve occurred in the past and try and keep tabs on it so you can get out there when it starts to happen.